The Door and Shepherd = Protection and Nourishment
Last week we worked our way through John 9, and were able to see a beautiful progression of a man moving from blindness to boldness as Jesus healed him and the man gradually became more emboldened as to what he was willing to declare concerning Jesus. His authenticity is admirable- his boldness in admitting his weakness while he was blind led to Jesus healing him, and his boldness displayed after he was healed as he openly worshipped Jesus as Lord led to Jesus finding him again and reassuring him with His presence. The following chapter 10 is a continuation of this story- Jesus’s words here are a result of the events that took place in chapter 9, and the words He spoke that day will reveal to us how to obtain true nourishment and protection in life. Let’s read verses 1-6.
Now this passage dovetails into what Jesus had told the Pharisees in verse 41 of the previous chapter, when He said “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” Now what’s ironic, is that Jesus is specifically addressing an issue with the Pharisees, but He presents it in a manner that is like a test- a test to prove if they are really as blind as He says they are. He gives them a figure of speech, a parable serving as another chance to see correctly with spiritual eyes and, how do they do on the eye exam? Complete fail- verse 6- “but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.”
In the following verses Jesus is going to explain his figure of speech. It’s not that he wants the religious leaders- or anyone else- not to understand, no- He is constantly at work wanting us all to better see things spiritually, and to move from blindness to clear vision. But before we look at His explanation in the following verses, I believe it will help for us to better understand this scenario of thieves, robbers, shepherds, doors, doorkeepers, and sheep.
First off, keep in mind that Jesus is still within the city walls of Jerusalem- He’s not out in the countryside. And the figure of speech He presents is referring to the type of shepherding that would take place in more of a civilized, close to the city type setting and not a rural countryside setting. Out in the countryside there’s probably not that great a threat of thieves and robbers, and probably not walls to climb over to get to the sheep, there’s not so many doors, and not many doorkeepers. But back here in the large city of Jerusalem the scenario was a little different. You see, the shepherds would take the sheep outside of the city walls each day during the daytime, to lead them to patches of grass to feed on, and small streams of water to drink from. The sheep would graze in one area, and then the shepherd would perhaps lead them to another area to drink, and then on to another place to graze again, etc., until towards the end of the day when they would start heading back to the city before the dangers of night. And a shepherd leads the sheep not from behind, not pushing- as you would in a cattle drive, rather a shepherd leads in front and calls the sheep to him.
During our time in Israel, Nikki and I were one day just outside of Jerusalem hiking around near a stream of water. And a single shepherd came by leading what appeared to be at least 200 some sheep. And he just had a simple call to them, probably the equivalent of me just saying “Come sheep come”- and he would say it over and over again periodically, and they would come. And if I had tried to mimic his call, the sheep wouldn’t have listened to me, they recognize their shepherd’s particular voice pattern, tone, accent, rhythm, etc. and respond to his call only. Take a look at this video…
Before night falls and predators come out, the shepherd leads his sheep back to the city, to a walled-in area within the city. There would be only one way in and out of the walled-in area, through a door or gate, and a doorkeeper would be there who was charged with the task of guarding that entrance, and only letting the appropriate shepherd with his sheep access to the safety of the area. Once the sheep were inside the walls, the door was shut, and the shepherd could rest while the doorkeeper stood guard throughout the night. Sheep were a valuable commodity, and in a city the size of Jerusalem, there were many thieves and robbers who might have their eyes on the prize of getting away with a few sheep. The doorkeeper was trained to only open the door in the morning for the shepherd, so it would be quite obvious the intent of anyone else attempting to climb over the wall in the middle of the night. They would obviously be seen as being up to no good- a thief or robber, and the sheep would know it too. The doorkeeper would be easily alarmed, and realistically there would really be no way for a thief or robber to get away with stealing the sheep. The sheep were safe within those walls, behind the door. With this description in mind, let’s read Jesus’s explanation of His parable. (John 10:7-10)
The door was the only pathway for the sheep to receive daily nourishment, and it was the only pathway for the sheep to receive nightly protection. And here Jesus is saying that He is that door for the sheep. Through Him we as His sheep are nourished and protected. We sheep know that any other pathway, will not give us the nourishment and protection we need. Anyone coming to us not through Jesus the door, is a thief or robber. There are some that promise other ways to be nourished in life, there are some that promise other ways to feel safe and secure, but if they are not of Jesus and Jesus alone, then they are deceivers, thieves and robbers, that could lead to your destruction.
And notice in verse 9 that Jesus says if anyone enters through Him, he will be saved. Anyone. No matter what you have done or haven’t done- you can be saved- but you must go through Him and Him alone.
Now who was Jesus specifically referring to in verse 8 as the thieves and robbers? A thief would be a criminal who steals employing stealthy craftiness- like a cat burglar. The victims don’t even realize what is happening. A robber on the other hand would be a criminal who directly confronts the victim with violence or the threat of violence in order to steal. And using these two terms, Jesus was referring to the religious leaders! He wasn’t referring to Moses, or the prophets who came before Him, because these all pointed towards the Messiah as being the door. But He was specifically calling out those who in the previous chapter had, by their actions, just claimed for themselves the position of “door” to the Kingdom of God. Verse 22 of chapter 9 says that these religious leaders had declared that if anyone confessed Jesus to be the Messiah- they were to be put out of the synagogue, which meant not only that they would be thrown out from fellowship with God’s people, but even worse that they would have no hope for the atonement of sins, and would be thus damned to Hell. And not only had they said this, but they followed through with doing just that to the former blindman in verse 34, after he had claimed that Jesus must be at least “from God.”
Notice also the present tense verb in verse 8, “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers,” not “were thieves and robbers.” He’s talking directly to the religious leaders who had set themselves up as the door to God’s nourishment and protection. Unfortunately, there are still those today who set themselves up as a door to the Kingdom of God, as did these Pharisees. There are leaders who claim that only through their approval, blessing, and oversight can one enter into God’s fold. Also, there are denominations that claim only their particular denomination as being the “true” fold of God. These are attempting to make the pathway narrower than it is. Then there are those that attempt to make the pathway wider than it is- by saying “Sure, join the fold of God, and we’ll even allow you to hold on to your sin- we’ll call it ok.” It’s not their call to make- the door is the door- it can’t be made narrower and it can’t be made wider. Jesus is the door to the kingdom, He’s the door to God’s abundant nourishing life, He’s the door to eternal protection- and you can’t enter into these blessings through part of him, nor can you enter through Him plus another way as well- it’s Him, all of Him, and nothing but Him.
Now sometimes there wasn’t a door to the sheep pen. In a more primitive set-up, there might be a fence, or stone wall intended to protect the sheep, but with no gate or door. In this instance, there still might be a doorkeeper, but the doorkeeper himself would become the door, standing or sitting at the one break in the wall so that nothing could pass in or out without going through him first. If there was no door, and also no doorkeeper, the shepherd himself would lie down at the break in the wall and serve as the doorway protecting the sheep from intruders- thieves and robbers, or more likely in this primitive set-up- wolves. Verse 11… (John 10:11-15)
In this passage, Jesus changes the imagery. Not only is He the door, but He’s also the Shepherd. If the sheep are relying on someone other than Jesus the shepherd, then they will become vulnerable and perhaps end up facing a wolf. And a sheep is completely defenseless against a wolf- it doesn’t have a chance without its shepherd protecting it.
If you are living a life outside of Jesus Christ- you are vulnerable, you are in danger, you don’t have a chance against the wolves seeking to devour you. The wolf of sin, death, and judgment will be impossible to escape. Jesus laid down his life so that His sheep may live and have abundant, overflowing life. Verse 16… I’m so glad Jesus said this. I’m so glad that He was sent to be the shepherd to more than just those living in Palestine during the Biblical days. You and I are part of the prophetic fulfilment of this verse. This verse also gives us the hope of success as we engage with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers who don’t yet know the Lord. This verse gives us hope as we support and participate in missions at home and overseas. There will be more brought into the fold, and they will hear His voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd. Verse 17… (John 10:17-21)
Jesus has now repeated 5 times the phrase “lay down my life.” He is emphasizing that His death was completely voluntary- He wasn’t forced, caught off guard, manipulated into it, no- because of His love for His sheep, He gave His life willingly so that His sheep could be saved. He looked the wolf of sin, death, and judgment in the eyes and said “Come and get me, but leave my sheep alone.”
And that wolf came at Jesus with everything it had- spitting insults, slapping Him in the face, mocking Him, ripping into His flesh with a cat of nine tails whip, crushing Him down with a heavy cross, suffocating Him as He hung from it, stabbing into his internals with a spear, and leaving Him to rot in a cave.
But what the wolf didn’t realize, was that the temporary death of the shepherd would ultimately lead to the wolf’s defeat. Jesus was no ordinary shepherd- He could lay down His life, but also take it back up. He could die and be dead, but then un-die and be alive. This is crazy talk! No wonder in verse 20 some said that “He has a demon and is insane.” There have existed many heroes in this world that have willingly laid down their lives so that others may live, but not one of them has had the power to sacrifice their life and then in their own power choose to begin it again. This is either the talk of a madman, or the talk of God Almighty. Jesus is either a complete lunatic, or He’s really the Door, the Shepherd, and the Owner of the Sheep- God Himself.
In this entire passage we see Jesus as one who speaks- calling His sheep- even personally by name. We see Him as the only door for safe passage to nourishment, and the only door for safe passage to protection. He is a shepherd worthy of being followed, all others are strangers, thieves, robbers, wolves that we as sheep are to flee from. Jesus is the good shepherd who loves us so much that He willingly sacrificed His life to take care of us and protect us. His voice can be heard and known, and He is the only one who has power over life and death.
I want you to leave here being reminded of just how good Jesus is as our Good Shepherd. I want you to rest knowing that if you are in Him, He is watching over you and protecting you in ways that you might not even realize. You are secure in His care. I want you to be able to say as David the shepherd wrote in his Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
But I also want you to leave here understanding just how dangerous it is outside of Jesus’s protection. If you are living outside his boundaries then you are risking the stealthy surprise of theft. And by boundaries, I’m speaking of His commands- what He says for us to do and not do. There is safety and nourishment within the boundaries- the walls- of His word. And the way we are granted inside access to His promises and protection, is through the door of Jesus. The way we understand and are able to apply what we read, is only through a relationship with Jesus. But if you are attempting to make Jesus the way wider or narrower- adding to His word or taking away from His word, making the path to God’s Kingdom harder or easier- then you are risking the violent attack and loss from a robber. And if you are looking for nourishment, satisfaction, safety, protection in anything or anyone other than Jesus- you are walking in wolf territory. And you will be just as defenseless as a sheep against a pack of wolves.
As your Pastor, serving as a shepherd, I enter into this relationship with you only through the door of Jesus. And I claim none other than He- The Good Shepherd, and I’m asking that you would do the same. That you would follow not me, but follow Him- knowing His voice, and resisting the voice of any stranger.